John Henderson, 1784-7; portico added by William Burn, 1817-8, and Music Hall by Burn and David Bryce, 1843; Ballroom extended into portico by Bryce, 1865; Vestibule by John Bryce, 1883; wings and corresponding rooms added by R Rowand Anderson & A J Balfour Paul, 1906-7. Symmetrical neo-classical 2-storey 7-bay assembly rooms with tetrastyle portico and single bay wings. Polished ashlar sandstone. Channelled ground floor (original block V-jointed, portico square-cut) with large square windows and shallow arched doorway at centre; piano nobile with corniced windows surmounted by blank panels, articulated by Doric pilasters, paired at ends; entablature and parapet; projecting pedimented Roman Doric portico, with later canted infill at centre, supported by channelled 3-bay arcade. Slightly set back single bay pend wings repeat theme with shallow arches at ground, and lower wallhead.
Pink rubble returns to original block. Later block of dressed stone with 3 massive arched windows to Music hall and 2 bays beyond; segmental arched access at ground.
3-storey 4-bay stugged ashlar elevation to Rose Street, central 2 bays with higher wallhead; doors at ground.
Timber sash and case 20-pane windows to piano nobile, 3-pane plate glass at ground. Piended roofs; grey slates; ashlar stacks.
INTERIOR: very fine, especially at 1st floor. Low vestibule with depressed arches leads to stair hall flanked by pair of Imperial stairs, with Coade stone figures; elaborately plastered function room straight ahead and down (presumably Anderson & Paul), remaining principal rooms at (or entered from) 1st floor. Henderson's Saloon, domed square lined with Doric columns, with some later decoration, and Ballroom; latter fills front of building, with ceiling roses and fluted Corinthian pilasters added by John Baxter, 1796, and apse and shell-headed doorway added 1865 (although Bryce designed this alteration in 1857). Music Hall of Greek Cross plan with platform in
S arm and gallery in N; segmentally vaulted ceilings and shallow central dome on pendentives; coffers and rosettes. Spectacular crystal chandeliers in principal rooms.
GATEPIERS: corniced ashlar gatepiers to pends at rear.
Statement of Special Interest
A Group with Nos 30-60 (Even Nos) George Street. The Assembly Rooms is an outstanding example of the late 18th century public building, continuing its original use for public functions. It forms an important part of the original fabric of Edinburgh's New Town, one of the most important and best preserved examples of urban planning in Britain.
The Assembly Rooms were built by public subscription, on a site given by the city, and cost over £6,000. They were initially furnished by Young and Trotter.
John Henderson, of Edinburgh, died prematurely (circa 1788) shortly after the Assembly Rooms was completed, and his other known work, now demolished was Amisfield House, East Lothian. Although he is credited with two built works, had he lived longer he would likely be regarded as one of Scotland's leading architects of the Georgian period.